For the Love of Food: Duke of Delhi
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What do chocolate, elephants and Bombay mix have in common? This morning I found myself in the company of a Duke who explained everything. But let me backtrack.
I’m a British Asian. This means I add a dash of masala to my baked beans and spread jam on my kebab. I don’t quite feel English, but I’m definitely not Pakistani either.
Like me, Asif Walli is a British Asian; thirty or so years ago he went back ‘home’ to India for the first time. Visiting the subcontinent for the first time is a shock to the system for the most discerning traveller, but for a young boy from Wallington, UK, the sights, smells and tastes all became a little too much. Yearning for a Cornish Pasty, the closest thing Asif could get his hands on were Nankhatai (semolina biscuits), a sweet treat that reminded him of the goodies his grandmother lovingly made for his family back home in England.
A memory that may on the surface seem insignificant, years later provided the catalyst for Asif (along with the help of his sister and grandmother), to begin baking Nankhatai biscuits and selling them in local markets in both Wallington and London. The biscuits that Asif tried in India were given a somewhat British makeover; flavours from both cultures were fused together to create a unique product. Those that first tried out Asif’s products revelled in them and the Duke of Delhi was born.
Mirroring the way in which the different intercontinental tastes work faultlessly when combined together, the Duke of Delhi branding had to represent both the British and Indian elements of Asif’s brand. Shaking up the traditional form of transportation that the English gentry favoured, Duke of Delhi re-jigged the horse and carriage…and replaced the horse with an elephant!
With a distinct brand and the success of the biscuits, expansion was inevitable and so came Delhi Mixes – something Asif calls “the distant relatives of the Bombay Mix”; traditional Bombay Mix with some rather British added ingredients such as honeycomb, chocolate chunks and oranges. Then came the lightbulb moment. If putting chocolate into Bombay Mix worked so well, why not flip the script so to speak, and put Bombay Mix into a premium chocolate bar? The exotic results of this unusual marriage include flavours such as ‘Milk chocolate and Indian cinnamon’, ‘Dark chocolate and toasted coconut’ and ‘Milk chocolate, cardamom and vanilla’.
Asif, like his signature chocolates, is an anomaly of tastes. He is a man who works in IT by day and dreams of chocolate by night. “I knew there was something more out there for me to be doing”. He has a passion for chocolate and creating weird and wonderful flavour combinations out of premium ingredients.
All of the chocolate bars are hand mixed and made in West London from start to finish – amazingly, the only bit of machinery used on the premises is a wrapper to pack and brand the chocolate accordingly. The hand crafted bars are a true labour of love.
Currently stocking in Fortnum and Mason, London, LuLu supermarket, Abu Dhabi and Dean and Deluca, Kuwait – as well as online via the Duke of Delhi website – Asif has big plans. He wants his products to reach the four corners of the globe and is hoping to reach Malaysian, Japanese, Thai and Dubai markets soon.
Whats next for Duke of Delhi? More expansion of the ranges, different flavours and more funky, quirky, innovative products. “We’re open to waiting to see where destiny takes us. Maybe we’ll go into something completely different?! What about jams?” Asif smiles.
Asif’s advice to budding entrepreneurs:
“You have to be comfortable being out of your comfort zone. Say yes to everything within reason – it will open doors. It’s fun looking back and thinking, ‘Wow! I accomplished this!’ but this is why I won’t ever stop. I don’t want to look back and think ‘I should have done this’ – you always get better at things if you continue. You have to enjoy what you’re doing – take it all in. If we work hard, persevere and get a little help from the big man up there Duke of Delhi will have no bounds!”.